By Jessica Domel

I’ve always loved this time of year. There’s just something about heading back to school with brand new markers, pens, notebooks and a shiny new lunch box filled with tasty treats.

When I was a kid, lunch consisted of some type of sandwich, a bag of chips, a soda and something sweet for dessert. It wasn’t the healthiest meal, but it kept my stomach from growling in math class.

Things are a little bit different for my niece, who is about to enter the first grade. My sister-in-law packs healthy foods that she knows Abby loves and will eat. Sometimes there’s low-fat, low-sodium crackers shaped like bunnies. There are grapes, apples or another sort of fruit or vegetable. Abby loves it!

I can’t help but think my nieces could be part of a growing group of young children who are learning to love healthy eating, including fruits and vegetables grown by American farmers. (Need help packing nutritious lunches? Amanda Hill has a few pointers.)

Developing healthy eating habits at such an early age is integral to a person’s overall health later in life.  That’s why organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been studying the height and weight of American preschoolers from low-income families in 40 states and U.S. territories for several years now. And this year, that research revealed something great.

Juvenile obesity rates are declining for the first time in decades. What a wonderful way to kick off a new school year!

What are you doing to help your children start the school year off right? Are you encouraging them to choose fruits, vegetables and other healthy snacks over salty or sugar-filled foods?